PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
“The Wonderful World of Ohio” was a magazine published by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources from 1965-1971 as a replacement for an earlier bulletin produced by the same agency.
Quite different from the typical government publications of the era, this magazine was colorful and featured articles about Ohio’s history and geography, highlighting museums, state parks, and natural wonders.
Beginning with the June 1965 issue, “The Wonderful World of Ohio” attracted 29,000 subscribers during its first year of publication, each paying 3 dollars of a year’s worth of the monthly magazines.
By the end of its publication in 1971, subscribers had grown to an estimated 250,000 when controversy brought the venture to an end.
The story of the “Wonderful World” cannot be told without focusing on the impact of Ohio’s four-term Governor, James A. Rhodes under whose watch the magazine began and ended.
Gov. Rhodes served Ohio with four terms in that office, 1963-1971 and 1975-1983. His first terms saw the construction of state office buildings, state parks, county airports, interstate highways, and other public projects.
All were profusely covered in the pages of the magazine.
“The Wonderful World of Ohio” was also a promotional tool for the State of Ohio, and stacks of the magazine were found at county fairs and events all across the state.
Some estimates put the number of magazines produced as three times the number of paid subscribers.
That led to a state audit in 1968 which found that technically the magazine was paying for its production through the sponsorships of other state agencies, supplementing the subscribers.
The magazine’s production came to an end with the conclusion of Gov. Rhodes’ term of office, but a problem existed. There were countless subscribers who had already paid for their subscription.
That led to a 1973 publication with the same title, which was produced by a private publisher and stated in the first issue, “It no longer is subsidized by the Ohio taxpayer….but a product of the free enterprise system.”
Eventually, that venture also ended, and “Ohio Magazine” was born, which is a private publication supported by subscription and advertising.
“The Wonderful World of Ohio” is still found tucked away on bookshelves of Ohio homes, and makes their way into flea markets and garage sales, not to mention sales on eBay.
The 45 year old articles in the magazine remain timely, and the photographs still appear stunning because of the high-quality paper on which they were produced.
The October issue always provided a splash of fall color, in addition to articles about gourds, pumpkins, and the harvest of the Ohio fields.
The December issues highlighted the holiday colors around the state, and toured decorated homes and museums, in addition to an article about toy making at the Ohio Arts Company.
Other state agencies authored articles as the magazine progressed, including an ODOT article about the 300 rest areas along Ohio’s highways in 1966.
An article outlined the Ohio Turnpike’s construction and maintenance as it appeared in 1970.
New state parks were always a premier subject in the magazine, and encouraged Ohio’s citizens to utilize this resource.
The magazine was a reflection and product of Gov. Rhodes and the time period.
My recollection was my meeting of Gov. Rhodes in 1965 at the grand opening of a 6 mile stretch of I-77 near my hometown.
Cars had been directed onto the new highway up to a speaker’s platform where the program was to be held, and I, a lad of 11 years old, stood in the crowd of adults awaiting the speeches.
The governor arrived, and surveyed the crowd of onlookers and extended greetings; and began walking toward the speaker’s platform until he saw me, and stopped.
“Young man, you can’t see anything from there, come out here in front!” he stated with authority. And so, I was ordered to stand front and center of the mass of adults.
I listened to the speeches, watched the ribbon being cut, and observed the new concrete highway; and joined in the family car for a ride up the new highway.